NEW : See my campaign to establish a National Coastal Path here
I was glad to get yesterday’s slog out of the way and I woke up in the van which was parked just opposite the beach at Little Gruinard. I was faced with a big hill start and was half expecting to catch a lift from the same joiner from whom I had hitched a lift from yesterday. He was from Aultbea and was working on a new house just off the road to Ullapool. He drove like a maniac though and we raced around the bends in the road. When I told him that I was walking around the coast of Scotland he said that the furthest north he had been to was Scourie, probably no more than about 50 miles to the north. If he had said he hadnt been further south than Fort William I would have believed him. I have an admiration for those I have met who havent travelled much in their lives. They never give the impression that they are missing out on anything and seem to be content with their lot. I have one or two friends who do the opposite – they seem to be permanently at airports or on trains going to or from some “essentially important meeting”. I doubt the meetings are that important – I think it just justifies and gives meaning to their lives. If they arent on the shut-eye to London at 7.30 having got up at 5.30 to catch the plane, then they are obviously missing out and have less worth. My life on this walk takes the form of a world that very gradually extends itself beyond a slowly changing horizon. What would take a week to walk can easily be done in a day by car. However, Im not so sure that this “need for speed” is the way to go any longer. At the beginning of the industrial revolution when we had the means to modestly shorten the time it took to cover distances between towns it opened Pandora’s box – a box which can never be closed. One of the components of “competitive edge” between business is the volume and speed at which business can be done – irrespect of the damage caused to the environment. We, as consumers think that international air travel is “a right” – not a luxury. We also expect and demand extensive “choice”. We demand produce that is not in season because we just want it, and are happy to eat apples from New Zealand despite there being the Scottish equivalent on the shelves. The shellfish that is collected from the lochs in the west of Scotland is placed in a deep freeze and dispatched to the far east to be prepared and then sent thousands of miles back across the world to be sold in the local supermarkets. Because it is financially valid to do so, it is done. The ethics of doing so doesnt seen to register on the radar of those who only look at the bottom line. We in the west decry the carbon footprint of those emerging nations such as the Chinese; and yet it we as consumers in the west who buy the stuff. Not in our own back yard taken to ridiculous levels.